Senators Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott, strong, longtime pro-life leaders, recently came out in favor of research that uses the cells of discarded embryos.

The senators have opened a pandoras box that will undermine the movement that they continue to say they're members of. In the future, pro-choice leaders will undoubtedly be heard to say, "Even Senators Lott and Hatch say it's ok to kill an unborn life if it's for a good cause."

No one doubts that the embryonic stem cell research can be used for good medical purposes. But if embryonic tissue at this earliest stage is permissible fodder for laboratory experimentation then why not embryonic tissue derived from tissue a week later, or two week later or six weeks later? Human life is either sacred from conception to its natural end or it's not.

Alas, this stem cell issue has smoked out members of Congress who may be pro-life but not actually genuinely believe life begins at conception. This sort of breaking of the ranks happens because some members of congress don't unfortunately believe that the tissue that we're talking about is in fact a form of human life. This wrong conclusion allows them to then rationalize allowing experimentation.

To some extent this is a case of emotion overriding clear ethical thinking. In some cases senators are dealing with health challenges in their own family in which this research may hold the possibility of cure. In other cases, the biotech industry has been very effective in pressing their cases.

The key issue right now involves whether to give federal funds for this research.

It has been a central principle of the Republican Party for over 20 years that we don't force taxpayers to fund something they find morally objectionable. This is the least we can do as a party.

In recent months significant breakthroughs involving use of adult cells. The logical thing to do is to pursue line of research in which there are no moral dilemmas and are showing great promise.

The White House may be tempted to try to find common ground on this but they shouldn't try. President Bush really has no choice but to oppose embryonic stem cell research. Bush was quite clear during the campaign; there was no hedging. He said flat out that he opposed federal funding for stem cell research.

This a fundamental principle of the Republican Party. My friends at the White House will disappoint millions of their most loyal supporters if they go the wrong way on this decision.

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